The Netherlands (/ˈnɛðərləndz/ (About this sound listen); Dutch: Nederland [ˈneːdərˌlɑnt] (About this sound listen)), often referred to as Holland, is a country located mostly in Western Europe with a population of seventeen million. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba), it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve provinces and borders Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, sharing maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Germany. The five largest cities in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht (forming the Randstad megalopolis), and Eindhoven (leading the Brabantse Stedenrij). Amsterdam is the country’s capital, while The Hague holds the seat of the States General, Cabinet, and Supreme Court. The Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and the world’s largest outside Asia.
“Netherlands” literally means “lower countries”, influenced by its low land and flat geography, with only about 50% of its land exceeding 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) above sea level. Most of the areas below sea level are artificial. Since the late 16th century, large areas (polders) have been reclaimed from the sea and lakes, amounting to nearly 17% of the country’s current land mass. With a population density of 414 people per km2 – 510 if water is excluded – the Netherlands is classified as a very densely populated country. Only Bangladesh, South Korea, and Taiwan have both a larger population and higher population density. Nevertheless, the Netherlands is the world’s second-largest exporter of food and agricultural products, after the United States. This is partly due to the fertility of the soil and the mild climate as well as its highly developed intensive agriculture. The Netherlands was the third country in the world to have elected representatives controlling the government’s actions; it has been administered as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy since 1848, organised as a unitary state. The Netherlands has a long history of social tolerance and is generally regarded as a liberal country, having legalised abortion, prostitution, and euthanasia, while maintaining a progressive drug policy. The Netherlands abolished the death penalty in 1870 and had women’s suffrage introduced in 1917. Regarding the LGBT community, it became the world’s first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001.
The Netherlands is a founding member of the EU, Eurozone, G10, NATO, OECD, and WTO, as well as being a part of the Schengen Area and the trilateral Benelux Union. The country is host to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and five international courts: the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court, and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The first four are situated in The Hague, as is the EU’s criminal intelligence agency Europol and judicial cooperation agency Eurojust and the United Nations Detention Unit. This has led to the city being dubbed “the world’s legal capital.” The country also ranks second highest in the world’s 2016 Press Freedom Index, as published by Reporters Without Borders. The Netherlands has a market-based mixed economy, ranking 17th of 177 countries according to the Index of Economic Freedom. It had the thirteenth-highest per capita income in the world in 2016 according to the IMF. In 2017, the UN World Happiness Report ranked the Netherlands as the sixth-happiest country in the world, reflecting its high quality of life. The 2018 OECD Better Life Index also ranks the Netherlands first in the world for work–life balance. The Netherlands has a generous welfare state that provides universal healthcare, good public education, and infrastructure, as well as a wide range of social benefits. That welfare system, combined with its strongly redistributive taxing system, makes the Netherlands one of the most egalitarian countries worldwide. It also ranks joint third highest in the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index, along with Australia.